Street Tales: Horizontal existence

Once before I mentioned a former Red Deer ‘Man of the Street’ named Basil. He was a totally unique individual whom most Red Deer residents called a bum. He was unique in that he was readily identifiable in his walk, physical stature, and dress.

He was stooped over like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and he wore an ankle-length, dark greatcoat, that with dirt and pocket contents, probably weighed forty pounds or more. He wore it winter and summer. For the length of time he wore it, it probably morphed into an extension of his skin. The shoes on his feet were large and wide, and almost looked like a pair of clown shoes.

Because of his bent over posture, he in all likelihood never saw higher than his five foot height, unless he turned his head to the side to look at your six-foot height when you offered him a cigarette. So he had a physical reason to remain horizontally focused. Whether he achieved that stature from scavenging the gutters or there was a physical condition is still up for debate, but in the years since he left his farm and family behind, that was his posture; some have said it was the result of unresolved post-traumatic stress disorder issues from the Second World War.

If we look at people around us, we find that it is not only ‘street bums’ that remain horizontally focused. It seems to be a common outlook of almost all of the folks we meet. Don’t believe me; just pay attention to where people’s focus is as you meet them walking along the street.

So, what’s your point you may ask? Why would I see this as a point worthy of writing about? Of course, this can be a physical manifestation of a mental attitude, although I find that it prevails at all levels of society, but most readily identifiable in the folks on the street. What I’m referring to is the inability or resistance to looking at life in a more positive way.

If our outlook on life is only horizontal, we often miss the opportunities that are presented to us in life. We find this at the kitchen and we feel that we can possibly help to change that outlook. We have many who, through some simple loving and encouragement have been able to change their focus from horizontal to vertical. They have left the entrapments of the ‘street’ behind and now lead a much better life; one that has much more meaning than the failures and misery they were used to. In other words, they have changed their focus from horizontal to more vertical.

The reasons for maintaining a flat outlook often are threefold. Our teaching right from birth, environmental influence and induced through habits such as drugs, alcohol and others. But a focus that is limited to looking at our feet and not stopping to look at the ‘sun’ periodically often leads to a dreary and a hopeless existence, making us unable at times to deal with the issues of life as they come our way.

According to Albert Einstein, ‘You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created.” In other words, we have to be able to change our focus if we are to make changes in our lives and the lives of those around us. For a lot of people, this presents no problem, but others more often than not need a helping hand in order to not only see where their life is at, but finding a way to alter focus in order to make a change in lifestyle.

I often wonder, what would Basil’s life have been like if he had made a focus shift in his life. More than that, could you or I have made that difference?

Chris Salomons is the kitchen co-ordinator at Potter’s Hands in Red Deer.

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